Many libertarians will point out that the definition of “liberal” has changed. What used to be a philosophy of small government and economic freedom is now the hallmark busy-body regulations and central economic planning. To elucidate this distinction many call themselves, “classical liberals.” What’s less often discussed is the history of “Solidarity.” Today “Solidarity” is often used to mean unity among international socialists and communist organizations. Although at rallies they espouse massages of peace, diversity and freedom, which I stand behind, their literature usually preaches a kind of class war, and big government solution.
The history of “Solidarity” is quite different however. The term comes from the Polish “Solidarność” which was a non-governmental trade union, or more accurately a black market resistance movement operating within the Soviet-bloc in the 1980s. Solidarity was a non-violent, anti-communist movement that was instrumental to the fall of the Soviet Union, and it could easily be described as a “classical liberal” movement. In 1986 free market economist Murray Rothbard visited Poland with warm reception from Solidarity, and the movement was flush with translations of Mises and Hayek, which were contraband.
One lesson to be learned from this is the folly of Utopianism. Prior to the Solidarity movement many anti-Soviet groups held the belief that an activist must hold a Utopian ideal to keep them motivated. The result was infighting between groups who shared the same goal. In short, Utopianism made them easy to divide and conquer. Solidarity proposed a different strategy whereby the emphasis was not on what activists favored, but instead a broad agreement on what they opposed. This was equally motivating, but without the divisiveness.
Fast forward to today and the world is erupting in dazzling explosions of populist movements. Tunisia, Egypt, London and now Wall Street. They all have different goals, but they all oppose the same thing, which is entrenched power structures. I view them all as the natural emergent order resulting from the proliferation of the Internet. Cyberspace is rabidly recreating Meatspace in it’s own image. Old strategies are being told to adapt or perish, and one of those strategies who’s time has come is Utopianism.
There are arguably two populist movements in the US right now, Occupy Wall St and the Tea Party. Most first wave Tea Partiers readily acknowledge that it’s already been hijacked. During the Bush administration the Tea Party had two goals, to end the war in Iraq and to abolish the Federal Reserve. Both of these could easily rally bipartisan populist support, but once Obama was elected they flipped the script and it became about opposing Obamacare, or the Ground Zero Mosque, or Illegal immigration or whatever. Similarly, Occupy Wall St began like all populist movements, as an attempt to confront entrenched power structures. They specifically aimed, “to separate money from politics” and “take to task the people who perpetrated the economic meltdown.” Reports indicate that the End the Fed movement is included in their ranks.
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